Salad, fries, rice, spinach, broccoli. According to Datassential, those are the Top 5 side dishes. But you can do better.
Creative side dishes boost add-on sales, do double and triple duty as small plates and vegetarian items, and can help upgrade standard menu “must-haves” like steak and chicken. They can also merchandise seasonality and serve as vehicles for new ingredients and flavor profiles in a way that more expensive main dishes can’t. Whether they’re merchandised à la carte or curated into signature entrées, sides can be a win-win for customer and operator alike.
Emphasize Technique: Play up the culinary aspect of sides with sophisticated technique descriptors'
- Blistered green beans
- Flash-Fried Carrots
- Pan-seared shishito peppers
- Wokked Asian greens
- Charred edamame and chickpeas
Serve Them Family Style: Offering an assortment of multiportion platters and bowls of specialty side dishes leverages the large-format trend and creates a shareable add-on.
- Crispy Brussels sprouts tossed with bacon, parmesan, citrus vinaigrette
- Sesame miso cauliflower (roasted cauliflower with white miso, pickled Fresno chile, green onions, toasted sesame seeds)
- Reggiano hash browns (hash brown potatoes baked in a creamy parmesan sauce, finished golden brown and crispy)
- Garlic buttered broccolini (fresh broccolini sautéed in garlic butter)
- Curried mac & cheese (elbow macaroni tossed in an ultra-decadent creamy cheese sauce with just a touch of curry)
Treat Specialty Breads Like Sides: In addition to offering à la carte breads among the appetizers, offer some appeal breads as go-withs for entrées.
- Warm garlic bread with thyme and rosemary
- Biscuits and herbed honey butter
- Parker House rolls or monkey bread
- Cheddar cheese cornbread
Consider Fritters, Pancakes, and Croquettes: Besides being different from the usual steamed or baked vegetables, these items are great for using up trim and overproduction.
- Corn and green chile fritters, queso fresco, lime, and pickled Fresno chiles
- Potato pancakes with shredded scallions and sour cream
- Cauliflower croquettes
Go a Little Over the Top: Fries and broccoli are fine, but signature preps speak to craveability and premium prices.
- Crispy potato tots topped with tender sliced beef brisket in BBQ sauce, smoky gouda cheese sauce, sliced scallions, Santa Fe crema, and crispy onion strings
- Roasted broccolini ‘n’ cheese with Mornay sauce, parmesan, and gremolata
- Sautéed wild mushrooms with green goddess dressing, mint, sesame togarashi
Slaw Variations: Trade on the popularity of this classic with distinctive, high-impact versions.
- Pickled daikon radish and carrot slaw with fresh jalapeño, cilantro, and Sriracha
- Celery slaw remoulade
- Shaved apple and fennel slaw
- Broccoli slaw with raisins and pineapple
Little Salads: Upgrade from the predictable lettuce-tomato-and-cucumber side salad with something worthy of an upcharge.
- Curly kale and green cabbage, topped with salted almonds, tossed in an apple Dijon dressing
- Antipasto salad
- Escarole salad with anchovies and garlic croutons
- Asian seaweed salad
- Roasted beets, goat cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette
Switch Up the Shape: Shredding, microplaning, cubing, and other cuts create an attractive appearance and fun textures.
- Beet and carrot zoodles in garlic butter
- Julienned zucchini marinara
- Diced roasted root vegetables
- Shredded Brussels sprouts with kimchi and shallots
- Cauliflower rice
Throw It on the Grill: Cooking vegetables on the grill gives them a crispy sear and smoky caramelized flavor, as well as an upscale profile.
- Esquites (grilled corn, shaved off the cob) with chiles and feta
- Grilled romaine or escarole with Caesar dressing
- Grilled asparagus with sesame oil and toasted sesame seed
- Grilled halved tomatoes with basil pesto
Make a Substitution: Take a popular standard and make it signature by swapping in a different vegetable.
- Patty pan squash instead of zucchini
- Crispy scallions instead of onion rings, with horseradish dip
- Roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, instead of new potatoes
- Zucchini, parsnip, avocado, or chickpea fries, instead of French fries
Rice Is Nice: Especially when it’s a little different, either a specialty version or as part of a more elaborate recipe.
- Citrus or coconut rice
- Mexican green rice with cilantro pesto
- Basmati pilaf with cashews and dried apricots
- Louisiana dirty rice dressing
Some Like It Hot: Develop recipes for side dishes that take advantage of customer taste for bolder, spicier foods.
- Harissa and maple roasted carrots
- Sweet and spicy green beans
- Collard greens with quinoa, pickled cranberries, sherry vinaigrette, Calabrian chile, and lemon
- Shredded cabbage with jalapeño vinaigrette and Fresno peppers
Source: Datassential, Most Popularly Menued Sides (2019)
The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.